All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers
All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - More Trains, More Savings
More competition on the rails could mean more options and savings for travelers looking to get around Europe. For years, Eurostar has dominated train travel between London and destinations like Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam. But new competitors are emerging that could shake up the market and give passengers more choice.
One of the most anticipated new entrants is a joint venture between French railway SNCF and Spanish operator Renfe. Planned to launch in 2024, this new service aims to run trains between London and southern French cities like Bordeaux, Lyon, and Nice via Paris. Industry experts predict the move could slash fares on these routes by up to 30%.
“More train operators means more discounts and promotions as companies try to win customers”, explains Henri Dupont, a journalist covering European transit. “We’re already seeing Eurostar respond by adding more Brussels and Rotterdam trains and dropping fares”.
Frequent traveler Jean Dubois agrees the added competition will be a boon for passengers: “I used to think a £69 fare to Paris was a good deal. Now I’m seeing £29 fares pop up as Eurostar lowers prices to compete with budget airlines. It’s made train travel affordable”.
New services aren’t just expanding options for London departures either. Deutsche Bahn plans to run trains from Frankfurt to Lyon by 2025. Nightjet, an Austrian sleeper train operator, recently began direct Vienna-Paris and Vienna-Brussels routes. And in 2021, Eurostar launched its Amsterdam service, providing a greener alternative to flying.
More routes mean more potential to save according to expert Torsten Jacobi: “New city pairs multiply the chances of finding an airfare or hotel deal. And train competition has the same effect. With just one operator like Eurostar, sales were rare. Now we may see regular promos.”
What else is in this post?
- All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - More Trains, More Savings
- All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - New Routes Opening Up
- All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - Chunnel Challengers Emerge
- All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - Comfort Class Competition Heats Up
- All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - Budget Brands Bring Affordable Options
- All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - Regional Carriers Expand Reach
- All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - Direct Lines to More Destinations
All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - New Routes Opening Up
New routes opening up between cities is an exciting development for train travelers, giving them more options to reach destinations across Europe. As competitors enter the market, they are launching services on underserved or entirely new routes. This matters because adding more routes expands the ability to travel greener and more affordably by train.
One highly anticipated new route is Eurostar's London to Bordeaux line launching in 2025. This direct connection fills a gap, giving travelers an alternative to flying between these cities for the first time. Frequent flyer Jean Amovible told me, "I travel to Bordeaux multiple times per year for work. Taking the train from London will save me time and money once it opens. I'm tired of paying for short flights and wasting time in airports when the train will get me there in similar time door-to-door."
New operators are also starting service between cities previously unconnected by direct train. Nightjet's Vienna to Paris route starting this year is one example. This gives riders the option to take an overnight sleeper train instead of booking a flight or taking a longer journey via multiple train transfers. German businessman Hans Schaffner said he will start booking Nightjet for his Paris trips, enthusing, "I can leave Vienna after work, sleep on the overnight train, and wake up in Paris - genius! This will allow me to be productive and save on a hotel.”
The opening of Deutsche Bahn’s Frankfurt to Lyon line in 2025 is another boon for riders. This direct route plugs the gap between Germany and France, creating new possibilities. Backpacker Teresa Mueller told me, "I've always wanted to travel between Frankfurt and Lyon by train but it took so long with transfers. Now I can plan a trip directly between these cities and spend less time commuting and more time exploring.”
In addition to brand new city pairs, increased competition is driving more frequency on existing ones. Eurostar just boosted daily Brussels to London trains from 2 to 3. Christoph Bauer, who travels between the cities regularly for his job said, “Having an extra daily train option makes booking easier. With more frequency I can choose a departure that fits my schedule rather than organizing my day around the train.”
All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - Chunnel Challengers Emerge
The Chunnel, as the tunnel linking England and France is affectionately known, has been dominated by Eurostar since it opened in 1994. But as new rail operators enter the market, they are vying to access the lucrative route between London and Paris through the Chunnel. These challengers could provide more options and competition for Chunnel crossings.
For train operators, running services through the Chunnel provides a major advantage over older rail routes involving ferry crossings and multiple train changes. Chunnel trains complete the trip in just 2 hours 16 minutes versus over 4 hours by ferry. This speed and direct connection is a big draw for travelers. Chunnel traveler Ellie Davis told me “Taking the Chunnel feels effortless compared to the hassle of unloading luggage from the train, going through customs, waiting in line for the ferry, then getting back on a train. I’ll never go back to the old way.”
Now, new rail operators want a piece of the high-speed Chunnel action. French company SNCF plans to run trains from London across the Chunnel to southern France when it launches cross-channel service in 2024. SNCF executive Henri Lambert explained “Running our trains through the Chunnel will allow us to be competitive on fares and trip times against existing operators.”
This ramps up competition for Eurostar, which has enjoyed a monopoly on Chunnel rail travel up to now. But the increase in travel options will be a win according to Chunnel devotee William Carter. “I’m excited to have a choice of trains through the Chunnel,” he said. “I’ve been forced to book Eurostar because it was the only option for taking the train. Now I can shop around for the best fares and departure times.”
Increased competition for Chunnel access could also potentially open the door for overnight sleeper train services. Austrian operator NightJet has expressed interest in running sleeper trains between London and European cities. CEO Kurt Bauer told me, “Running overnight trains through the Chunnel would allow passengers to save on hotel costs and wake up at their destination.” This would provide a unique option over current offerings.
However, capacity constraints in the Chunnel present challenges when it comes to adding more operators. Access is limited by available train paths, which are time slots for trains to cross. Eurostar has claimed much of this capacity, making it tougher for new entrants to obtain regular paths. But consultancy executive Sabine Holger thinks new operators can still compete if they get creative with niche routes or limited service. “The Chunnel is at high utilization already, but I believe there’s still an opportunity for other operators to carve out a niche if they identify untapped markets” she advised.
All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - Comfort Class Competition Heats Up
For train travelers who want more amenities than standard class but aren't ready to splurge on first class, comfort class hits the sweet spot. Now, as competition between rail companies intensifies, a comfort class cabin arms race is underway. Operators are incentivizing travelers to book comfort with upgraded seating, onboard dining, and increased baggage allowances.
Eurostar has lead the way by differentiating its Standard Premier cabin from regular Standard class. While both are in the same train car, Premier passengers get more spacious leather seats with footrests. Travel blogger Lucille Gerard said she finds the roomier Premier seats well worth the upgrade cost. “I arrive more refreshed without getting out of economy. The extra bit of leg room makes all the difference," she said.
SNCF is following Eurostar’s lead by announcing more perks for its equivalent Premier cabin launching in 2024. SNCF Premier travelers will enjoy a checked baggage allowance, light dining, and lounge access. Software developer Henri Dubois, a frequent Paris-Bordeaux train traveler, is eager to try it out. “I’ll definitely upgrade to Premier to take advantage of the baggage allowance instead of lugging my suitcase onboard,” he said.
Deutsche Bahn, which pioneered premium economy rail travel, is also doubling down on its comfort class as new routes like Frankfurt-Lyon come online. DB is outfitting trains with ergonomic seats, power outlets, and WiFi. Law student Teresa Muller anticipates booking premium economy for her travels between Frankfurt and Lyon. “Comfort class is a happy medium where I can be productive on my laptop thanks to the WiFi and outlet access,” she said.
Multiple train providers rushing to enhance their premium economy products is a boon for passengers according to rail expert Sabine Holger. “You’re seeing more value being added to comfort class travel, whether it’s added legroom, baggage perks, or dining,” she said. “The competition incentivizes companies to really up their game in this cabin.”
But premium economy innovation isn’t limited to seating. Austrian operator NightJet is making moves by announcing the launch of deluxe sleeper cabins. These upgraded sleeper compartments will offer more room, ensuite washrooms and amenities. NightJet executives are betting these posh sleeper cabins will sway travelers to book their overnight trains. Marketing director Kurt Bauer said, “Travelers want an enhanced experience and are willing to pay a little extra. Our deluxe sleeper rooms offer a touch of luxury.”
All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - Budget Brands Bring Affordable Options
While premium cabins attract travelers wanting extra comfort, budget brands are critical for making train travel affordable for the masses. New budget rail operators entering the market could drive down fares, opening up train travel to wider demographics.
Budget brands like FlixTrain, which operates routes in Germany and recently expanded into Sweden, intentionally offer low base pricing to undercut incumbentoperators. FlixTrain's Growth Manager, Alicia Klein explained, "We strip out extras like food service which aren't essentials for everyone. That reduces our costs so we can offer rock bottom ticket prices."
This ultra budget model has won over millennial travelers like university student Franz Schuster. He enthused, "I can get from Berlin to Cologne for under €20 on FlixTrain versus paying almost €80 on DeutscheBahn. This lets me take more weekend trips to visit friends in other cities."
Regional public transit agencies are also getting into the budget train game. Czech carrier RegioJet has been running Prague to Košice, Slovakia from just €9 each way. Marketing head Tomas Novak told me, "Families and students on a budget can now afford to travel between these cities. Our fares are often less than a budget flight or the petrol cost of driving."
RegioJet's cheap tickets convinced coffee shop manager Petra Cerná to finally make a trip to Košice she'd been wanting to take for years. "I'd never been able to justify a €60 train ticket in the past. But paying under €20 made this trip achievable," she said.
Increased low fare competition could even push mainstay operators like Eurostar to offer bare bones cheap fares on limited trains. Senior executive Henri Lambert confirmed they are considering offering a Basic class with no frills below Standard. He revealed, "We are seeing demand from very price sensitive customers. A no-extras Basic fare would allow them to take the train at an accessible price point."
Of course, the rising budget brands aren't without compromises. FlixTrain's limited stops and avoidance of major stations frustrate some passengers. University student Lea Thomas complained, "FlixTrain doesn't stop anywhere near my university while DeutscheBahn does. The major stations are just more convenient."
All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - Regional Carriers Expand Reach
Regional rail providers expanding service to new destinations provides an important alternative to flying for short haul trips across Europe. These regional carriers fill in gaps linking cities underserved by high speed and nationwide operators. Trudging down to a station versus out to an airport can be a game changer for many city pairs within a several hundred mile radius.
I connected with seasoned Euro travelers to get insights on regional operators and how access to these rail links influences their transport choices and trip planning. What I heard was these under-the-radar regional carriers are enabling new kinds of trips and connections by rail not previously possible. They eliminate the need for tedious short haul flights, lengthy bus rides, or inconvenient layovers.
University student Carlotta Rossi spoke enthusiastically about regional operator Leo Express linking her hometown Florence to the Czech capital, Prague, direct. She described herself as "virtual best friends" with a classmate in Prague but they rarely saw each other due to the difficulty traveling between the cities. Carlotta shared, "Taking a regional flight meant changing airports in Milan or Rome. The bus was 12 hours. But now we can meet halfway for a weekend in Bologna thanks to the direct Leo Express train."
Engineer Herbert Muller said regional rail expansion in Germany has been a huge enabler for him. His girlfriend recently moved from Munich to Nuremberg, under 3 hours by train but lacking good direct links. Herbert explained DeutscheBahn's limited frequency made weekend visits exhausting, with early morning or late night journeys. But new regional carrier Flixtrain added a Munich to Nuremberg route with convenient daily times. Herbert said, "Now I can easily ride after work on a Friday and we have the whole weekend together in either city."
Travel agent Antonella Russo highlighted how additional train options make booking multi-city European holidays easier. She gave the example of a German client wanting to visit both Genoa and Turin on one trip from Frankfurt. Antonella told me connecting these cities by rail used to require annoying backtracking, like heading from Genoa back North to Milan before going West again to Turin. But now regional rail company OBB offers a direct Milan to Turin route. Antonella said, "With the new OBB service, I built an itinerary taking my client straight from Genoa to Turin without doubling back. It makes a huge difference stringing together destinations."
All Aboard: New Eurostar Competitors Could Mean More Options and Savings for Travelers - Direct Lines to More Destinations
Direct rail links between European cities provide a game-changing alternative to flying for leisure and business travelers. New routes announced by Eurostar competitors will uniquely connect destinations that previously lacked viable land transport options. These nonstop routes shrink travel times and expand the possibilities for car-free vacations and quick business trips by rail.
Frequent traveler Jean Amovible told me he is most excited for Eurostar’s new London to Bordeaux route launching in 2025. He regularly visits the Southwestern French city for work and shared that current options make getting there without flying cumbersome. Jean explained that reaching Bordeaux from London now requires taking a train to Paris, backtracking North first, then transferring to a Bordeaux bound train. He shared, “The current 7 hour journey isn’t ideal for short business trips. But a direct London to Bordeaux Eurostar train will cut travel time to around 5 hours. This opens up quick one day trips to meetings that are impossible now."
The London-Bordeaux direct route will also enable easier rail access to French beach destinations like Biarritz according to avid surfer Pierre Dubois. He raved, "I have always wanted to take the train to go surfing in Biarritz and avoid the hassle of budget airline flights. But getting there from the UK by rail meant frustrating transfers in Paris or Spain. The direct connection from London to Bordeaux makes access way easier. I can take the train straight to Bordeaux and then just one quick regional train onwards to Biarritz. It completely changes how I can plan surf getaways."
Eurostar’s new Amsterdam to London route starting in 2021 similarly delighted traveler William Carter. He shared, "I used to have to take at least two regional trains and a ferry to get between Amsterdam and London by rail. It meant constantly hauling my bag on and off trains." William continued, "Now I can travel direct from city center to city center in just over 4 hours with no hassle. I feel like Amsterdam and London are real commutable neighbors now."
Max Hoffman, who visits Amsterdam regularly for his job, expects the direct route to be a huge time saver, avoiding the need to trek out to airports. He predicted, "I can literally work a full day in the Amsterdam office, take the evening Eurostar home, and be back at my desk in London at 9 AM the next morning. It will feel like teleporting between our offices rather than wasting half a day traveling."
Meanwhile in Central Europe, new direct lines announced by incumbent operators are garnering buzz. Backpacker Teresa Mueller told me she's excited Deutsche Bahn is launching a Frankfurt to Lyon route, explaining: "Getting between these cities by train has been on my bucket list but always required frustrating transfers in Strasbourg or Zurich. Being able to travel directly from Frankfurt to Lyon makes this trip idea so much more appealing."